Early History of St. Boniface
In the early 1800’s this community was, for the most part, a densely wooded area. Few trails led to the nearby city of Erie, and they were next to impassable during the greater portion of the year. The land, however, was fairly fertile, and when cleared, seemed adaptable to the raising of a variety of crops. A number of enterprising immigrants, who hailed from the far off shored of Germany and Ireland, braved the mud of the rutted trialed and set to work, hewing rough homes and workable farms out of the forbidding woods. The result was a community of well-meaning and hardy farmers, who perhaps mindful of the great number of trees they had felled, jestingly called the entire settlement “The Beechwoods,” a name that still clings to it even to the present day.
Just who was first to blaze the trail can not be determined with any great degree of accuracy, but the most reliable of present day traditions seem to agree that the first cleared land was located on what corresponds today to the well known Vogel farm, about two miles to the southeast of the present church property. No matter who was the first, suffice it to say, the start was made and one family followed another, so that by the year 1850, the whole countryside was dotted with farms, which has been literally wrested from a primeval forest, through the indomitable courage of a band of rugged pioneers.
These early settlers were, for the most part, of the catholic faith, and had come to America as to a land of promise. They asked for nothing more than a chance to make an honest living and to be left alone to worship their God in peace and tranquility. They were not burdened with an abundance of worldly goods, and at first found it impossible to support a church of their own; but they were blessed with a super abundance of religious favor and an unending capacity for making sacrifices, so they trudged faithfully all the way to Erie, Sunday after Sunday, to attend Mass and receive the Sacraments, the Germans going to St. Mary’s and the Irish to St. Patrick’s.
By the year 1857, this little band of Catholic farmers had reached the startling number of thirty five families. God had blessed their efforts and they were all prospering, so they got together, talked things over, and decided they were affluent enough to enjoy the comfort of having a priest of their own, to live in their midst and minister to their spiritual needs. A delegation was formed to wait upon a bishop, and apprise him of their desires. Bishop Young, who was then presiding over the destines of the lately organized Diocese of Erie, received them kindly, praised them for the initiative, placed them under the patronage of St. Boniface, and turned them over to the ministries of FR. J.S. Oberhofer, who was at the time an assistant at St. Mary’s Church, Erie PA. This was the first step taken in the religious development of the community. The so-called Beechwooders were elated, for they had received from the hands of the sympathetic bishop greater consideration than they had actually expected.
(Obtained from Parish Diamond Jubilee Book of 1932)